Does Your Website Need to be ADA Compliant? What to be Aware Of

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Inclusivity and equity are hot topics these days—and for good reason. Our society demands that all people are treated fairly and have equal access to experience a high quality of life. And this holds true online as well—which means you may be facing a situation where your website cannot be utilized or accessed by a person who is visually impaired, hearing impaired, or by those individuals who must navigate online by voice, screen readers, or other assistive technologies. In this blog, we will discuss what ADA compliance means for your site—and if it is something you need to bring into alignment with regulations STAT.

A Brief History

According to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, all federal, state, and local government websites must be ADA compliant.  This was updated in 2001 to include Internet and Intranet applications and information. It was here that the Department of Justice first articulated its interpretation that the ADA also applies to public accommodations’ websites (i.e., private businesses and nonprofits), meaning that goods, services, privileges, or activities provided by companies or organizations that serve the public need to ensure that people with disabilities are provided access.

However, does this mean that all businesses and nonprofit organizations need to ensure ADA compliance on their website? Let us be the first to say there is some gray area.

What Businesses Fall Under Title I and Title III of the ADA

ADA website compliance relates directly to Title I and Title III of the ADA. However, Title I does provide an exemption for private clubs and religious organizations—and this also applies to their websites.

Title III pertains to the public accommodations to private businesses and nonprofits. It states that it generally applies to any “(1) Public accommodation; (2) commercial facility; or (3) private entity that offers examinations or courses related to applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary education, professional, or trade purposes.”

For universities or companies that offer online instruction and learning, this is pretty cut and dry. However, there is debate over whether a private company’s website is a “public accommodation” of one’s company.  But that case has been made in court, and the First, Second, and Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals have all upheld that public accommodation does in fact extend to a website. On the flip side, the Third, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that this only applies to physical locations and not digital and online assets.

What’s more is that the courts, the Justice Department, and Congress continue to punt the issue back and forth to each other…so gray area remains gray, at least for now.

When It’s Mandatory

If you are a business that operates 20 or more weeks per year and employs at least 15 full-time employees, you fall under Title I.  And you need to ensure ADA compliance on your website.  Furthermore, if you fall under the category of “public accommodation,” such as a hotel, public transportation, restaurant, or bank, you must also ensure your website is in line with ADA regulations.

Failure to comply presents the potential for lawsuits, financial liability, and damage to your brand.

How to Ensure ADA Compliance

Here are a few quick takeaways to ensure your website is compliant with the ADA:

  • Your website should be functional on different devices, including tablets, which are most often used by people with disabilities.
  • Your website should offer tab navigation, which allows a user to easily move through the site using keyboard shortcuts. This might be the only way a person with physical disabilities is able to access your site.
  • Your website’s buttons, images, icons, and other visual elements need to be functional for all users, meaning they need to be labeled properly for all devices to be able to identify and interact with them.
  • Your website should offer spacing and padding to make elements larger. For someone who has problems with hand-eye coordination or tremors, clicking small buttons may be challenging. Being able to enlarge a target makes it easier.
  • Your website should be easy to read and offer color contrast. For instance, white background with black text is safe, but if you are color blind you will not be able to read text that is blue on a green background, for instance.

Navigating ADA compliance on a website can be difficult, but our team understands the rules and would be happy to ensure your company follows set regulations.  Reach out to Woland Web and let’s discuss ADA compliance and how it impacts your company’s online assets. We are proud to help companies remain inclusive and equitable to all of their customers.